Passover Planning: Booze Edition, Part I

Boozy Seder Plate Prep

Passover's coming and the first night falls on Friday, April 22nd this year. That means that The Man and I are checking our list (and checking it twice) to see what we can make ahead of time before our raucous gaggle of friends and family descend upon our house, ready to eat, drink, and retell the story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt.

So, those of you who have attended a Passover Seder at our house, you know we go big. We are very child-friendly and there are copious amounts of chocolates and candies for the kiddos. But we are also very adult-friendly. And that means booze. Lots of it.

The Passover Seder is known for its Four Cups of Wine symbolizing God’s relationship to the Jewish people: “God spoke to Moses: Tell the children of Israel: I will bring you out… I will rescue you… I will redeem you… I will take you for me as a people and I will be for you as a God…” (Exodus 6:2-7). But The Man and I are not ones to leave well-enough alone. Over the past few years, we have been developing cocktail recipes for shots to represent some of the symbolic foods on the Seder Plate. The first one we developed was inspired by the horseradish vodka served at Chicago's Russian Tea Time restaurant. [Stay tuned, because this shot is not the last one!]

One of the steps in the Passover Seder is the blessing over, and consumption of, bitter herbs (known as maror). Most Jews use horseradish for the maror and whether you eat it straight from the root or prepared from the jar, it is sure to clear out your sinuses (and recall the suffering of slavery). But what if you were to drink a shot of ice-cold horseradish-infused vodka? You should really try this; you won't go back.

Recipe for Maror Shots

Ingredients:

1 bottle of good potato vodka

4 oz horseradish root, peeled and sliced thin.

2 tbsp peppercorns

Dried red chili peppers, to taste

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a large, tightly sealed jar. Shake occasionally and let sit for 24-36 hours, tasting occasionally after 24 hours.

When it's strong and to your liking, strain and rebottle. Store in the freezer.

[Bonus holiday hint: If there is any leftover vodka, try breaking your Yom Kippur fast with it in the fall!]

Happy Easter! (I made you a pie.)

Happy Easter!

 

While this is not a holiday that we observe in our home, I do sometimes like to add a culinary nod to The Man's heritage. However, that was usually ham and even in my meat-eating days that was a product I steered away from. 

But there are other options. My mother would often buy her beloved son-in-law some sort of chocolate product in the shape of a rabbit if she was in town. I had plans to make Anna Gentile's Ricotta Pie this weekend, but I had to rethink things. Because vegan.

As always, when attempting to come up with recipes for Christian holidays, I veer Italian. This Sunday is no exception as I am attempting a vegan version of this Neapolitan classic. As I perused the veg-web, I came across Bryanna Clark Grogan's Pastiera Napolitana (a Neopolitan Easter Grain and "Ricotta" Pie).  This classic dish sometimes has barley, sometimes orzo, and often rice as its grainy filler. And I love myself some rice pudding with a sweet ricotta. Bryanna's recipe over at vegsource.com has a lovely top and bottom crust, which I am not attempting today. Because lazy.

Here's what we did:

Ingredients for Filling: 

Rice:

1 cup soy creamer

1 cup almond milk (you could use soy)

1 1/4 cups Arborio (or other medium grain) white rice

2 tablespoons organic unbleached granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

"Ricotta" Mixture: 

3 packages medium-firm tofu, drained and crumbled 

1 1/2 cups organic unbleached granulated sugar 

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons orange flower water (optional, but traditional)

2 tablespoons finely-grated organic orange zest

2 tablespoons finely-grated organic lemon zest

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon sherry or Marsala

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon xanthum gum (Bryanna calls for agar powder, which I keep forgetting to buy)

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pie crust:

Optional work here. I bought two pre-made crusts, but I think in the future that the vegan hamantaschen dough would make a hell of a pastry crust.

Instructions:

  1. For the rice: Bring milk and creamer to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir, move to low heat, and cover, cooking for about 35 minutes--until milk has been absorbed. This should not be runny.
  2. For the "ricotta": Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender (like a Vitamix) until silky-smooth.
  3. When the rice has cooled, combine with ricotta in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°.
  5. Fill pie crusts and bake for 45 minutes.*
  6. Cool on racks for several hours and refrigerate until serving time.
 Silky smooth "ricotta"!

Silky smooth "ricotta"!

*This recipe made a little more than needed for two standard pie crusts. Might I suggest some ricotta fritters with the leftover filling?

 Final Product!

Final Product!

 

 

An explanation for our hiatus

Where we've been (and where we're going)

So when last we left you, dear readers, was at the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Oh, how optimistic we were after a summer of regular blogging. To say we were busy is true (but who isn't), but there is more at hand here. We Culinary Converters here at The Interfaith Cookbook have been undergoing a bit of a conversion ourselves. Not religious, mind you (we like to think we have that stuff figured out), but culinary. 

Regular readers may have noticed that our Rosh Hashanah meal included an eggplant variation on our traditional bbq brisket. I became a vegetarian over the summer and that meal reflected that shift in our house. In October, the Man began a "Vegan Before Six" diet, which led to the funny distinction of Vegan Before Six/Vegetarian after Six. Suddenly, eggs? Ultimately, we have both embraced a happy, around-the-clock veganism.

My history with meatless eating is long and varied. I stopped eating meat for about eight years in the 1990s, and I have long credited that time for helping me become the creative cook I am today. Diet restrictions often lead to explorations of unusual foods and flavor combinations, many of which are just delicious. When I began to eat meat again, I had a bunch of rules for myself (many of them rather arbitrary). My reasons for switching to so-called plant-based eating are personal and multi-layered, as are any such dietary choices. My commitment to not being annoying about it is pretty firm, but it seems important to at least mention it due to the nature of this blog.

Which leads us to The Interfaith Cookbook. What now, friends? Many religious holidays have celebrated meat dishes at the center of the table. What do we do about this? Well, it was always our intention to offer multiple variations on such menus in order to accommodate guests of other faiths (and dietary requirements) at your table, so at this point we plan to continue to offer discussions of traditional foods and recipes but we will also offer suggestions on how to create meatless alternatives while still embracing the spirit of the holiday. (Vegan eating also has the added benefit of being kosher by default, so these recipes could fit on any table.) We are also open to suggestions on what you would like to see more here. 

But for now, we offer you a string of meatless recipes to enhance your spring!